The Plantation of Ulster (Irish: Plandáil Uladh; Ulster-Scots: Plantin o Ulstèr) was the organised colonisation (plantation) of Ulster – a province of Ireland – by people from Great Britain during the reign of King James I. Most of the settlers (or planters) came from southern Scotland and northern England, and had a different culture to the native Irish. Small privately-funded plantations by wealthy landowners began in 1606, while the official plantation began in 1609. Most of the land colonised was forfeited from the native Gaelic chiefs, several of whom had fled Ireland for mainland Europe in 1607 following the Nine Years' War against English rule. The official plantation comprised an estimated half a million acres (2,000 km²) of arable land in counties Armagh, Cavan, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Tyrconnell and Londonderry. Land in counties Antrim, Down and Monaghan was privately colonised with the king's support.
Among those involved in planning and overseeing the plantation were King James, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Arthur Chichester, and the Attorney-General for Ireland, John Davies. They saw the plantation as a means of controlling, anglicising and "civilising" Ulster. The province was almost wholly Gaelic, Catholic and rural, and had been the region most resistant to English control. The plantation was also meant to sever Gaelic Ulster's links with the Gaelic Highlands of Scotland. The colonists (or "British tenants") were required to be English-speaking, Protestant, and loyal to the king. Some of the undertakers and settlers however were Catholic and it has been suggested that a significant number of the Scots could speak Gaelic. The Scottish settlers were mostly PresbyterianLowlanders and the English mostly members of the Church of England. Although some 'loyal' natives were granted land, the native Irish reaction to the plantation was generally hostile, and native writers bewailed what they saw as the decline of Gaelic society and the influx of foreigners.
The Plantation of Ulster was the biggest of the Plantations of Ireland. It led to the founding of many of Ulster's towns and created a lasting Ulster Protestant community in the province with ties to Britain. It also resulted in many of the native Irish losing their land and led to ethnic and sectarian conflict, notably in the Irish rebellion of 1641.
Before the plantation, Ulster had been the most Gaelic province of Ireland, as it was the least anglicized and the most independent of English control. The region was almost wholly rural and had few towns or villages. Throughout the 16th century, Ulster was viewed by the English as being "underpopulated" and undeveloped. The economy of Gaelic Ulster was overwhelmingly based on agriculture, especially cattle-raising. Many of the Gaelic Irish practiced "creaghting" or "booleying", a kind of transhumance whereby some of them moved with their cattle to upland pastures during the summer months and lived in temporary dwellings during that time. This often led outsiders to mistakenly believe that the Gaelic Irish were nomadic.
Michael Perceval-Maxwell estimates that by 1600 (before the worst atrocities of the Nine Years' War) Ulster's total adult population was only 25,000 to 40,000 people. Others estimate that Ulster's population in the year 1600 was about 200,000. The wars fought among Gaelic clans and between the Gaelic and English undoubtedly contributed to depopulation.
The Tudor conquest of Ireland began in the 1540s, during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) and lasted for the next sixty years, only being completed after sustained warfare in the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603), which broke the power of the semi-independent Irish chieftains. As part of the conquest, plantations (colonial settlements) were established in Queen's County and King's County (Laois and Offaly) in the 1550s, and in Munster in the 1580s, although these were not very successful.
In the 1570s, Elizabeth I authorized a privately funded plantation of eastern Ulster, led by Thomas Smith and Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex. This was a failure and sparked conflict with the Irish, in which the English massacred the O'Neills of Clannaboy and massacred the MacDonnells of Antrim.
In the Nine Years' War of 1594-1603, an alliance of northern Gaelic chieftains--led by Hugh O'Neill of Tír Eoghain, Hugh Roe O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, and Hugh Maguire of Fermanagh--resisted the imposition of English government in Ulster. Following an extremely costly series of campaigns by the English, including massacre and use of ruthless scorched earth tactics, the war ended in 1603 with the surrender of the Gaelic alliance and the Treaty of Mellifont. The terms of surrender granted to the rebels were considered generous at the time.
After the Treaty of Mellifont, the northern chieftains attempted to consolidate their positions, and the English administration attempted to undermine them. In 1607, the chieftains left Ireland to seek Spanish help for a new rebellion, in the Flight of the Earls. King James issued a proclamation declaring their action to be treason, paving the way for the forfeiture of their lands and titles.
A colonization of Ulster had been proposed since the end of the Nine Years' War. The original proposals were smaller, involving planting settlers around key military posts and on church land, and would have included large land grants to native Irish lords who sided with the English during the war, such as Niall Garve O'Donnell. However, in 1608 Sir Cahir O'Doherty of Inishowen launched a rebellion, capturing and burning the town of Derry. The brief rebellion was ended by Sir Richard Wingfield at the Battle of Kilmacrennan. The rebellion prompted Arthur Chichester, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, to plan a much bigger plantation and to expropriate the legal titles of all native landowners in the province.John Davies, the Attorney-General for Ireland, used the law as a tool of conquest and colonization. Before the Flight of the Earls, the English administration had sought to minimize the personal estates of the chieftains, but now they treated the chieftains as sole owners of their whole territories, so that all the land could be confiscated. Most of this land was deemed to be forfeited (or escheated) to the Crown because the chieftains were declared to be attainted. English judges had also declared that titles to land held under gavelkind, the native Irish custom of inheriting land, had no standing under English law. Davies used this as a means to confiscate land, when other means failed.
The Plantation of Ulster was presented to James VI & I as a joint "British", or English and Scottish, venture to 'pacify' and 'civilise' Ulster, with at least half the settlers to be Scottish. James had been King of Scotland before he also became King of England and needed to reward his subjects in Scotland with land in Ulster to assure them they were not being neglected now that he had moved his court to London. In addition, long-standing contact and settlement between Ulster and the west of Scotland meant that Scottish participation was a practical necessity.
Six counties were involved in the official plantation – Donegal, Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan and Armagh. In the two officially unplanted counties of Antrim and Down, substantial Presbyterian Scots settlement had been underway since 1606.
The plan for the plantation was determined by two factors. One was the wish to make sure the settlement could not be destroyed by rebellion as the first Munster Plantation had been in the Nine Years' War. This meant that, rather than settling the planters in isolated pockets of land confiscated from the Irish, all of the land would be confiscated and then redistributed to create concentrations of British settlers around new towns and garrisons.
What was more, the new landowners were explicitly banned from taking Irish tenants and had to import workers from England and Scotland. The remaining Irish landowners were to be granted one quarter of the land in Ulster. The peasant Irish population was intended to be relocated to live near garrisons and Protestant churches. Moreover, the planters were barred from selling their lands to any Irishman and were required to build defences against any possible rebellion or invasion. The settlement was to be completed within three years. In this way, it was hoped that a defensible new community composed entirely of loyal British subjects would be created.
The second major influence on the Plantation was the negotiation among various interest groups on the British side. The principal landowners were to be "Undertakers", wealthy men from England and Scotland who undertook to import tenants from their own estates. They were granted around 3000 acres (12 km²) each, on condition that they settle a minimum of 48 adult males (including at least 20 families), who had to be English-speaking and Protestant. Veterans of the Nine Years' War (known as "Servitors") led by Arthur Chichester successfully lobbied to be rewarded with land grants of their own.
Since these former officers did not have enough private capital to fund the colonisation, their involvement was subsidised by the twelve great guilds. Livery companies from the City of London were coerced into investing in the project, as were City of London guilds which were granted land on the west bank of the River Foyle, to build their own city on the site of Derry (renamed Londonderry after them) as well as lands in County Coleraine. They were known jointly as The Honourable The Irish Society. The final major recipient of lands was the Protestant Church of Ireland, which was granted all the churches and lands previously owned by the Roman Catholic Church. The British government intended that clerics from England and the Pale would convert the native population to Anglicanism.
Scottish settlers had been migrating to Ulster for many centuries. Highland Gaelic Scottish mercenaries known as gallowglass (gallóglaigh) had been doing so since the 15th century and Presbyterian lowland Scots had been arriving since around 1600. From 1606 there was substantial lowland Scots settlement on disinhabited land in north Down, led by Hugh Montgomery and James Hamilton. In 1607 Sir Randall MacDonnell settled 300 Presbyterian Scots families on his land in Antrim.
From 1609 onwards, British Protestant immigrants arrived in Ulster through direct importation by Undertakers to their estates and also by a spread to unpopulated areas, through ports such as Derry and Carrickfergus. In addition there was much internal movement of settlers who did not like the original land allotted to them. Some planters settled on uninhabited and unexploited land, often building up their farms and homes on overgrown terrain that has been variously described as "wilderness" and "virgin" ground.
By 1622, a survey found there were 6,402 British adult males on Plantation lands, of whom 3,100 were English and 3,700 Scottish - indicating a total adult planter population of around 12,000. However another 4,000 Scottish adult males had settled in unplanted Antrim and Down, giving a total settler population of about 19,000.
Despite the fact that the Plantation had decreed that the Irish population be displaced, this did not generally happen in practice. Firstly, some 300 native landowners who had taken the English side in the Nine Years' War were rewarded with land grants. Secondly, the majority of the Gaelic Irish remained in their native areas, but were now only allowed worse land than before the plantation. They usually lived close to and even in the same townlands as the settlers and the land they had farmed previously. The main reason for this was that Undertakers could not import enough English or Scottish tenants to fill their agricultural workforce and had to fall back on Irish tenants. However, in a few heavily populated lowland areas (such as parts of north Armagh) it is likely that some population displacement occurred.
However, the Plantation remained threatened by the attacks of bandits, known as "wood-kern", who were often Irish soldiers or dispossessed landowners. In 1609, Chichester had 1,300 former Gaelic soldiers deported from Ulster to serve in the Swedish Army. As a result, military garrisons were established across Ulster and many of the Plantation towns, notably Derry, were fortified. The settlers were also required to maintain arms and attend an annual military 'muster'.
There had been very few towns in Ulster before the Plantation. Most modern towns in the province can date their origins back to this period. Plantation towns generally have a single broad main street ending in a square – often known as a "diamond", for example The Diamond, Donegal.
The plantation was a mixed success from the point of view of the settlers. About the time the Plantation of Ulster was planned, the Virginia Plantation at Jamestown in 1607 started. The London guilds planning to fund the Plantation of Ulster switched and backed the London Virginia Company instead. Many British Protestant settlers went to Virginia or New England in America rather than to Ulster.
By the 1630s, there were 20,000 adult male British settlers in Ulster, which meant that the total settler population could have been as high as 80,000. They formed local majorities of the population in the Finn and Foyle valleys (around modern County Londonderry and east Donegal), in north Armagh and in east Tyrone. Moreover, the unofficial settlements in Antrim and Down were thriving. The settler population grew rapidly, as just under half of the planters were women.
The attempted conversion of the Irish to Protestantism was generally a failure. One problem was language difference. The Protestant clerics imported were usually all monoglot English speakers, whereas the native population were usually monoglot Irish speakers. However, ministers chosen to serve in the plantation were required to take a course in the Irish language before ordination, and nearly 10% of those who took up their preferments spoke it fluently.[page needed] Nevertheless, conversion was rare, despite the fact that, after 1621, Gaelic Irish natives could be officially classed as British if they converted to Protestantism. Of those Catholics who did convert to Protestantism, many made their choice for social and political reasons.[page needed]
The reaction of the native Irish to the plantation was generally hostile. Chichester wrote in 1610 that the native Irish in Ulster were "generally discontented, and repine greatly at their fortunes, and the small quantity of land left to them". That same year, English army officer Toby Caulfield wrote that "there is not a more discontented people in Christendom" than the Ulster Irish. Irish Gaelic writers bewailed the plantation. In an entry for the year 1608, the Annals of the Four Masters states that the land was "taken from the Irish" and given "to foreign tribes", and that Irish chiefs were "banished into other countries where most of them died". Likewise, an early 17th-century poem by the Irish bard Lochlann Óg Ó Dálaigh laments the plantation, the displacement of the native Irish, and the decline of Gaelic culture. It asks "Where have the Gaels gone?", adding "We have in their stead an arrogant, impure crowd, of foreigners' blood".
Historian Thomas Bartlett suggests that Irish hostility to the plantation may have been muted in the early years, as there were much fewer settlers arriving than expected. Bartlett writes that a hatred for the planters grew with the influx of settlers from the 1620s, and the increasing marginalization of the Irish. Historian Gerard Farrell writes that the plantation stoked a "smoldering resentment" among the Irish, who believed they had been "unfairly dispossessed of their lands by force and legal chicanery". Petty violence and sabotage against the planters was rife, and many Irish came to identify with the wood-kern who attacked settlements and ambushed settlers. Ferrell suggests it took many years for an Irish uprising to happen because there was depopulation, because many native leaders had been removed, and those who remained only belatedly realised the threat of the plantation.
By the 1630s it is suggested that the plantation was settling down with "tacit religious tolerance", and in every county Old Irish were serving as royal officials and members of the Irish Parliament. However, in the 1640s, the Ulster Plantation was thrown into turmoil by civil wars that raged in Ireland, England and Scotland. The wars saw Irish rebellion against the planters, twelve years of bloody war, and ultimately the re-conquest of the province by the English parliamentary New Model Army that confirmed English and Protestant dominance in the province.
After 1630, Scottish migration to Ireland waned for a decade. In the 1630s, Presbyterians in Scotland staged a rebellion against Charles I for trying to impose Anglicanism. The same was attempted in Ireland, where most Scots colonists were Presbyterian. A large number of them returned to Scotland as a result. Charles I subsequently raised an army largely composed of Irish Catholics, and sent them to Ulster in preparation to invade Scotland. The English and Scottish parliaments then threatened to attack this army. In the midst of this, Gaelic Irish landowners in Ulster, led by Felim O'Neill and Rory O'More, planned a rebellion to take over the administration in Ireland.
On 23 October 1641, the Ulster Catholics staged a rebellion. The mobilised natives turned on the British colonists, massacring about 4000 and expelling about 8,000 more. Marianne Elliott believes that "1641 destroyed the Ulster Plantation as a mixed settlement". The initial leader of the rebellion, Felim O'Neill, had actually been a beneficiary of the Plantation land grants. Most of his supporters' families had been dispossessed and were likely motivated by the desire to recover their ancestral lands. Many colonists who survived rushed to the seaports and went back to Great Britain.
The massacres made a lasting impression on psyche of the Ulster Protestant population. A.T.Q. Stewart states that "The fear which it inspired survives in the Protestant subconscious as the memory of the Penal Laws or the Famine persists in the Catholic." He also believed that "Here, if anywhere, the mentality of siege was born, as the warning bonfires blazed from hilltop to hilltop, and the beating drums summoned men to the defence of castles and walled towns crowded with refugees."
In the summer of 1642, the Scottish Parliament sent some 10,000 soldiers to quell the Irish rebellion. In revenge for the massacres of Scottish colonists, the army committed many atrocities against the Catholic population. Based in Carrickfergus, the Scottish army fought against the rebels until 1650. In the northwest of Ulster, the colonists around Derry and east Donegal organised the Laggan Army in self-defence. The British forces fought an inconclusive war with the Ulster Irish led by Owen Roe O'Neill. All sides committed atrocities against civilians in this war, exacerbating the population displacement begun by the Plantation.
In addition to fighting the Ulster Irish, the British settlers fought each other in 1648-49 over the issues of the English Civil War. The Scottish Presbyterian army sided with the King and the Laggan Army sided with the English Parliament. In 1649-50, the New Model Army, along with some of the British colonists under Charles Coote, defeated both the Scottish forces and the Ulster Irish.
As a result, the English Parliamentarians (or Cromwellians) were generally hostile to Scottish Presbyterians after they re-conquered Ireland from the Catholic Confederates in 1649-53. The main beneficiaries of the postwar Cromwellian settlement were English Protestants like Sir Charles Coote, who had taken the Parliament's side over the King or the Scottish Presbyterians. The Wars eliminated the last major Catholic landowners in Ulster.
Most of the Scottish planters came from southwest Scotland, but many also came from the unstable regions along the border with England. The plan was that moving Borderers (see Border Reivers) to Ireland (particularly to County Fermanagh) would both solve the Border problem and tie down Ulster. This was of particular concern to James VI of Scotland when he became King of England, since he knew Scottish instability could jeopardise his chances of ruling both kingdoms effectively.
Another wave of Scottish immigration to Ulster took place in the 1690s, when tens of thousands of Scots fled a famine (1696-1698) in the border region of Scotland. It was at this point that Scottish Presbyterians became the majority community in the province. Whereas in the 1660s, they made up some 20% of Ulster's population (though 60% of its British population) by 1720 they were an absolute majority in Ulster, with up to 50,000 having arrived during the period 1690-1710. There was continuing English migration throughout this period, particularly the 1650s and 1680s, notably amongst these settlers were the Quakers from the North of England, who contributed greatly to the cultivation of flax and linen. In total, during the half century between 1650 and 1700, 100,000 British settlers migrated to Ulster, just over half of which were English.
Despite the fact that Scottish Presbyterians strongly supported the Williamites in the Williamite war in Ireland in the 1690s, they were excluded from power in the postwar settlement by the Anglican Protestant Ascendancy. During the 18th century, rising Scots resentment over religious, political and economic issues fueled their emigration to the American colonies, beginning in 1717 and continuing up to the 1770s. Scots-Irish from Ulster and Scotland, and British from the borders region comprised the most numerous group of immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland to the colonies in the years before the American Revolution. An estimated 150,000 left northern Ireland. They settled first mostly in Pennsylvania and western Virginia, from where they moved southwest into the backcountry of upland territories in the South, the Ozarks and the Appalachian Mountains.
The legacy of the Plantation remains disputed. According to one interpretation, it created a society segregated between native Catholics and settler Protestants in Ulster and created a Protestant and British concentration in north east Ireland. This argument therefore sees the Plantation as one of the long-term causes of the Partition of Ireland in 1921, as the north-east remained as part of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland. This however does not take into account the numbers of Catholic British that settled or the amount of natives who adopted Protestantism and a British identity along with settlers who became Catholics and adopted an Irish identity.
The densest Protestant settlement took place in the eastern counties of Antrim and Down, which were not part of the Plantation, whereas Donegal, in the west, was planted but did not become part of Northern Ireland.
Therefore, it is also argued that the Plantation itself was less important in the distinctiveness of the North East of Ireland than natural population flow between Ulster and Scotland. A. T. Q. Stewart concluded, "The distinctive Ulster-Scottish culture, isolated from the mainstream of Catholic and Gaelic culture, would appear to have been created not by the specific and artificial plantation of the early seventeenth century, but by the continuous natural influx of Scottish settlers both before and after that episode..."
The Plantation of Ulster is also widely seen as the origin of mutually antagonistic Catholic/Irish and Protestant/British identities in Ulster. Richard English has written that, "not all of those of British background in Ireland owe their Irish residence to the Plantations... yet the Plantation did produce a large British/English interest in Ireland, a significant body of Irish Protestants who were tied through religion and politics to English power."
However, going on surnames, others have concluded that Protestant and Catholic are poor guides to whether people's ancestors were settlers or natives of Ulster in the 17th century.
The settlers also left a legacy in terms of language. The strong Ulster Scots accent originated through the speech of lowland Scots settlers evolving and being influenced by both Hiberno-English and Irish Gaelic. Seventeenth century English settlers also contributed colloquial words that are still in current use in Ulster.
Advisors to King James VI/I, notably Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy from 1604, and Sir John Davies, the lawyer, favoured the plantation as a definitive response to the challenges of ruling Ireland. [...] Undertakers, servitors and natives were granted large blocks of land as long as they planted English-speaking Protestants
To King James the Plantation of Ulster would be a civilising enterprise which would 'establish the true religion of Christ among men...almost lost in superstition'. In short, he intended his grandiose scheme would bring the enlightenment of the Reformation to one of the most remote and benighted provinces in his kingdom. Yet some of the most determined planters were, in fact, Catholics.
Many will be surprised that three amongst the most energetic planters were Catholics. Sir Randall MacDonell, Earl of Antrim... George Tuchet, 18th Baron Audley... Sir George Hamilton of Greenlaw, together with his relatives...made his well-managed estate in the Strabane area a haven for Scottish Catholics
The result was that over the ensuing decades many Catholic Scots...were persuaded to settle in this part of Tyrone [Strabane]
The economy was overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture. [...] The English consistently underestimated the importance of arable farming in Gaelic Ulster, but there is no doubt that cattle raising was the basis of the rural economy. [...] This form of transhumance, known as 'booleying', often led outsiders to conclude mistakenly that the Gaelic Irish lived a nomadic existence.